By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – November 16, 2019)
EPISODE 5: LITTLE FEAR OF LIGHTNING (Lindelof/Carly Wray, Steph Green)f
Tim Blake Nelson was exquisite through this episode, which almost entirely centered around his Wade Tillman character, where he came from, and why he is the way he is as Looking Glass. It was illuminating to the squid attack, which we actually see, and before the hour ends, we also understand why. It’s more orchestrated than some would know, with tentacles (pun absolutely intended) stretching to President Robert Redford, who Adrian Veidt planned to have in office at the proper time.
Wade is tortured and damaged and his ability to trust has seemingly been destroyed, largely because of what happened to him in 1985 on the night of the psychic blast and the punk girl that stole his clothes while he was attempting missionary work for the Jehovah’s Witness organization. He was from Tulsa, working for the church in Hoboken, New Jersey, and as we see the carnival and the debauchery and the funhouse, it certainly wasn’t surprising that the girl did what she did. At best, she was going to corrupt him, but instead, she broke him, right before she and everyone else NOT in that funhouse basically died as a result of Veidt’s master plan in action.
Two moments from this episode stand out most to explain Wade’s mindset. When he looks into the mirror in 1985 and talks of how he’s pathetic and a sinner and will get what he deserves, we see he’s punishing himself and is clearly disgusted with what he’s done, believing he will face vengeance and wrath. Later, when he’s lured to the headquarters of the Seventh Kavalry, he says to himself, “You sure know how to pick em.”
He despises himself, and he’s mentally shook. Regardless of the fact he runs the support group, his red Tulsa Tornadoes cap is lined with tin foil, which is supposed to prevent brain damage from psychic blasts. He has a shelter, he has equipment, he’s frightened to death. The Kavalry uses it to try and turn him, with help from Senator Keene, who reveals himself to be part of the group. There’s more to it, which Damon Lindelof makes sure everyone understands with the Adrian Veidt video. The squid is a “hoax” and not from another dimension at all. Aliens aren’t taking over.
Keene also explains that both he and the late Judd Crawford are protecting the peace and keeping a second White Night from happening as they’re running Kavalry groups. That’s interesting, although the way the episode ends would indicate that’s basically BS. Either that, or Wade Tillman now knows too much and can’t be trusted. Wade trusts nobody 99% of the time, but he gets burned more than once in situations where a woman is involved. The Hoboken prank leaves him mentally scarred and ruins his marriage to Cynthia, who cleary did love him, but could never convince him she wasn’t going to leave him naked and run away with his clothes.
She also kills a cloned dog that isn’t entirely identical, a scene that happens to show how mentalities have changed in this version of the world and how commonplace this kind of thing might be in the scientific community. Wade is an odd guy, which we already knew, but he also serves as a human polygraph for commercial product focus groups. He’s a lie detector, which is why he does what he does for the police, or does he just want foil all over his head, leading to the Looking Glass idea.
He’s also a bit of a degenerate, appears to have lost whatever religion he might have had, and says out loud to himself at the bar, “I don’t have any friends,” including one that could give him a ride home in his inebriated state. He’s always on his own and his mind isn’t a happy place to be. After he sees Keene’s video, he does give Angela Abar up. He knew the cactus was bugged and gets Sister Night to mention her grandfather, leading to her arrest a few seconds later. He apologizes to her, but felt he had no choice in order to keep her safe. Judd’s death puts them all at risk, he believes, but was he swerved THRICE?
The hour ends with Wade at a crossroads when he gets home. A lot happened in just a couple of minutes here, so let’s go through it. He’s in his car and he looks over at his cap, then leaves it in the car, signifying maybe he no longer fears another attack from another dimension. He takes the EDS equipment and throws it in the trash and walks to his home, then though he comes back and grabs it back, so he might not be ready to fully embrace the Adrian Veidt video and the “freedom” it provides. Then he goes inside, a dark vehicle pulls up, and a quartet of Kavalry members emerge with guns.
We don’t see him killed and thus the episode ends with a great cliffhanger here. Will next week’s installment begin right there? Because he isn’t murdered in front of us, it may not be what we think it is. He looks like a goner, and after spending so much time with him, it is set up for us to say goodbye to him in much the same way we did Judd in the premiere. Is that intentional as a misdirection tactic? That’s the question we don’t have an answer to.
Portions of this episode were uncomfortable, and it’s focused so much on Glass that we don’t get any movement on the Lube Man story or even Dr. Manhattan, except that you’d have to think “SAVE ME D…” is Veidt trying to spell out “DOC” or something similar. He sees the satellite and feels he’s succeeded before he’s pulled down and subjected to the game warden’s reprimand for disregarding the rules.
Looking Glass is a truth detector in focus groups and interrogations, but he has a difficult time not ending up the gullible fool as he seeks some kind of companionship. He says at the beginning of the episode as a boy trying to spread the message of his church, “Are you ready to hear the truth?” When he sees Veidt’s video, does he see that as truth? How much truth does he miss and how much is he willing to share? Was he ready to SEE the truth? It’s much easier to spot other people’s inconsistencies than to admit your own, or even notice them until they’ve already been uncovered.
We’ve also got a new drug, “Nostalgia,” a pill that is basically memories in drug form, which can lead to psychosis and indeed are the pills Will Reeves gave his granddaughter. As she’s being led away, she inhales the entire bottle. So, we may be in for quite a trip next week between the Kavalry at Wade’s home and Night’s mental state, where maybe we learn much more about Will or other pieces of the family.
Lindelof has done a good job of using what’s happening now to weave in the story of the past and flesh out these characters. We’re past the halfway point of the season, still no renewal from HBO, and it still feels treacherous at best. This show is so hard to approach for a newcomer without patience, and only over the past two weeks have some of the more abstract concepts begun to make sense. The Kavalry now has more depth and isn’t just straight racism, and though this show is really at best just a sequel in spirit to the source material, the story is increasingly engaging. It may be too late, however, for anybody that already cut bait.
We still need to figure out why the Seventh Kavalry, or Keene’s Tulsa group, are tossing basketballs through dimensional portals, recording calculations and coordinates when they return, and what the end game is here. Keene says it’s “something new,” not merely dropping another squid in Tulsa. It has to have something to do with what Lady Trieu is building, although we didn’t see her or hear her name spoken this week. We’re watching the show from varying perspectives, with major characters that vanish from entire episodes. Watchmen is just so very dense. That makes it quite an undertaking for the audience.
I’m digging it…but I love a mystery and have grown to accept that the answers don’t always match the questions. I enjoy the ride, even if the quality of the destination ultimately might be questionable or lackluster. Not that it’s the case here, as Lindelof has landed The Leftovers plane in the past and PERSONALLY, though my opinion is in the minority, I think he landed the Lost plane as well. This one, however, he may have just four more hours left to close up properly, though maybe there’s another season to come.
So, does Looking Glass survive?
I’m @JMartZone. I’m not even going to try and disguise my voice.